Adding Hardscape Maintenance to Your Business
By Dan Harvey, SEK Surebond
In the past, the hardscape industry has sold concrete pavers and natural stone as a maintenance-free investment that will last a lifetime. However, over time, wear and tear as well as harsh weather conditions inevitably reduce a once-beautiful installation into a patchwork of dirty, stained or moldy pavers with weeds between the joints.
While little can be done to stop Mother Nature or the march of time, paving installers have a significant weapon in their arsenal: sealers that protect and extend the life of hardscapes.
In addition to providing a lasting finish, sealers can prevent the growth of weeds and grass in joints, protect against stains, inhibit insect infestations, and reduce accumulation of mildew and mold.
Yet, speak to just about any paver installer and they will admit that sealers are rarely applied. Most paver contractors have never been properly trained in the application of sealers and often view the task as difficult, with a potential for bad results. Pavers are left virtually unprotected, which only speeds deterioration. But for contractors who learn the process, the application of such products is not only extending the life and beauty of new installations, but also opening new business opportunities.
"We've worked with new installations and hardscapes that have considerable age," explains Jim Scocozza, owner of Pennsylvania-based The Paver Savers Inc. "Either way, there is a real 'wow factor' when we are done."
Restoration involves the revitalization of installed pavers--natural stone and concrete surfaces--through minor repairs, joint stabilization, cleaning and sealing. In doing so, hardscapes can be restored to "like new" condition.
According to Scocozza, there is "plenty of potential for a dedicated [paver restoration] company," but the lack of awareness by homeowners that this type of service exists, coupled with contractor's general wariness of sealers, has left it a largely untapped market.
"It took us some time to figure out how to do it right," admits Scocozza, whose business began as a full-service landscaping enterprise and moved into hardscaping. Some common difficulties associated with sealers include over-application or applying it in poor weather. Moisture can become trapped under or within the sealant and can cause discoloration.
Although some contractors choose a trial-and-error approach, assistance and training are available from good sealer vendors. Scocozza points to his experience with SEK-Surebond, a company that offers a comprehensive line of sealers, cleaners and stain blocking products in various finishes. They provide ongoing technical support, marketing materials, follow-up training and on-site project consultations, along with classes on sealer application.
Before adding sealer application to the list of services you offer, it is important to ensure you have the right tools of the trade. A high quality pressure washer is a must - it should be rated at 3,000-5,000 PSI and at least 5 gallons per minute for paver cleaning. A flat surface cleaner can help with the process as well; a 24" size is plenty for beginners. Other helpful cleaning products include heavy-duty detergent, efflorescence cleaner, organic stain remover, oil remover, and sealer stripper.
To actually apply the sealant, you need a power sprayer with a 2 GPM pump. A hand-pumped sprayer will also work, but will be slower, covering 300-400 square feet per hour as opposed to up to 1,500 square feet per hour.
After analyzing the financial potential in paver restoration, Larry Jouett, owner of Odd Job Larry in Kenosha, Wis., concluded it was a viable business. "We crunched the numbers and it looked very promising," he relates. "We determined our overhead and profit margins, the start-up costs and what we needed to accomplish. All of that looked quite attractive."
Now that the company is established, Jouett is "ready to go full-bore in 2017."